Lady Macbeth (2016)

Lady Macbeth
Director: William Oldroyd
Writer: Alice Birch
Based on: Nikolai Leskov‘s novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District
Cast: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie, Christopher Fairbank, Golda Rosheuvel
Seen on: 1.12.2017

Katherine (Florence Pugh) was married off to an older man, Alexander (Paul Hilton) who leaves her alone at his father Boris’ (Christopher Fairbank) country estate pretty soon. Boris has to travel as well, leaving Katherine with nothing to do and nobody for company except her servants, above all her maid Anna (Naomi Ackie). This at least gives the frustrated Katherine the chance to explore the countryside on walks. One day she crosses paths with groomsman Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis) and soon, they start to have a passionate affair.

Lady Macbeth is an engrossing film with a pretty amazing protagonist. I was entirely caught up in the events and the emotions of the story.

Katherine is a difficult character – she’s an anti-heroine, I’d say, and one of the few examples of a very engaging one. While the male anti-heroes have gotten their fair share of attention, female anti-heroines are under-explored and rarely done well. So that alone was a pleasure, especially since Pugh really was the perfect choice for the role, making Katherine’s development naturally visible and utterly believable.

I definitely spent the film being torn between total antipathy towards her and her actions and complete understanding why she would act the way she does and make the decision she makes. But whether I liked her in a particular moment or not, I always wanted to  know what happened to her – I never once lost interest.

I also found it extremely interesting that the film works with quite a few actors of color, above all Naomi Ackie and the more racially ambiguous-looking Cosmo Jarvis. By not keeping the film entirely white – as happens too often in historical films – it makes the intersectional power structures in that society much more complex and interesting. I would probably need to see it again to really get a structured analysis, but I can tell that it would be worth the effort.

And to make things even better, the film has beatiful cinematography and looks great, despite not having too much of a budget. The only thing I regret is that I saw the re-cut version where the cat doesn’t speak anymore. I hope that one day I get to see the other version.

Summarizing: Beautiful and engaging.

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